The following is an excerpt from Loving the Present by Sarah Huxtable Mohr. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
The point of presence, and mindfulness, from a Sufi perspective is to develop a connection to, and understanding of, Ultimate Reality in order to live life more fully, in love and truth. If you are trying to find a location with a map, and the map lacks sufficient detail you might find your goal, but you will be challenged to do so. If living in truth and love, in harmony with the Divine, with True Being, is the goal, at least we should be starting with the intention to draw a map with the actual end location that we desire being clearly marked.
There is a famous saying which, regardless of its authenticity, has been the basis for Sufi reflection for centuries. The saying is that God said, “I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known, so I created the creation that they might know me.” This saying can be found in a wide range of Sufi writing, and many teachers quote it, including Rumi and others, although authoritative hadith collections do not include it, and many deny its validity. This hidden treasure that is God is the “present,” the treasure in all life and living, the present worth loving, the gift of the Divine that pervades all being. God, according to Sufi understanding, is Omnipresent, and creation is nothing but a series of veils over that reality. Mindfulness, then, for some Muslims, is basically the ongoing remembrance, awareness, and tuning into this underlying Truth. Mediation is one source of tuning in, as are prayer, being in nature, contemplation, and other avenues of spiritual awareness, many of which are mentioned in this book.
In the sense that this book is about presence, this book is about spirituality not religion. Partly this is because it is action-based despite its comments on religion. At this point, we might ask what is the difference between spirituality and religion? My definition of the difference is that spirituality is always action based, while religion can remain merely a theory. Religion can be spiritual, but it is not always so. What kind of action is spiritual action? Any action which helps and does not cause harm. Based on whether or not something is helpful and does not cause harm, one can say whether or not an action is spiritual. I must emphasize again that spirituality is about action. The dogmas of religion often do not lead to action, and that is why they are often derided as useless, and insofar as they lead us to avoid the world and the problems of our lives, they are.
The difference can be explained concretely in terms of the idea of murder. Not to kill is one of the Ten Commandments, and one of the Buddhist precepts. It is crucial to every world religion. But the mere idea of not murdering has not always stopped people from killing, just because they go to church and hear the idea. Not killing becomes spiritual when you get rid of your guns and become a vegetarian. Thus, this text is spiritual when it talks so much about religion, partly because at the end of each section, there is a meditation on mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Being fully present, being in the now with compassion and without judgement.
Mindfulness is necessary for any spiritual action because all action happens in the now. It is also necessary to healing, and to the practice of the Twelve Steps.
When I wrote this book originally in 2002, I stopped there. I stated, “This book is about spirituality not religion.” However, bowing to the liberal peer pressure that religion is a dirty word is also highly problematic. So, I’d like to say this book is also about religion. It is about the universal religion that involves acting in accordance with Divine Laws that are revealed in all the great world religions. It is about love. My teacher, Imam Mehdi Khorasani taught that Islam, and Sufism, can be summed up in one word: love. The Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan people, who was friends with Imam Khorasani, is famous for saying, “My religion is kindness.”
Praise for Loving the Present
“An intimate portrait of what mental health and substance-use recovery can look like by someone who has experienced this process firsthand and come out on the other side. Sarah Huxtable Mohr’s odyssey . . . will be of interest to individuals who wish to take seriously the spiritual dimension in their treatment even when modern Western psychology negates the sacred foundations of psychology, or the ‘science of the soul,’ as it is recognized across the diverse cultures.”
—Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, author of Dismantling Freud
“Loving the Present is a beautifully written and highly relatable book that blends spirituality and the principles of recovery with the joy of being in the now. Sarah Huxtable Mohr enlightens us with her storytelling and reminds us that being in the present can help us overcome the biggest life challenges, including addiction. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the healing arts!”
—Kim Peter Norman, MD, UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
“Loving the Present is a gift to every survivor out there, a sojourn of the soul. Suffused with ancient wisdom and enriched by learnings of many faiths. Every word dipped in pain, narrating a tale of triumph and of overcoming odds. Sarah is a warrior and champion for many lost souls; I am humbled and grateful to be part of her journey!”
—Farha Abbasi, Director, Muslim Mental Health Consortium, Michigan State University
”Sarah utilizes her personal life lessons as her main source of information for finding connections between the world religions and philosophies. Her words move the reader through a variety of experiences both earthly and heavenly while displaying courage in exposing her own foibles and missteps so the reader may benefit through her life’s lessons to enhance their own spiritual journey.”
—Yassir Chadly, Shaykh, and Associate Professor, The Graduate Theological Union
“Many people and their families are suffering and seeking a way through the painful effects of mental illness and addiction. Sarah shares diverse spiritual and practical tools to overcome the challenges of this dual disorder. Her work recognizes that mental illness and addictions affect people of diverse backgrounds in various ways, therefore multifaceted approaches are needed. Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her personal and professional insights.”
—Aneesah Nadir, pioneer in the field of Muslim Mental Health Advocacy
About the Author
Sarah Huxtable Mohr is an independent researcher, licensed clinical social worker, and certified drug and alcohol counselor. She received her bachelor’s in religion from Dominican University (2003) and her master’s in religion and psychology from the Graduate Theological Union with a certificate in Islamic studies (2009). She is the author of multiple works on psychology in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Muslim Mental Health and the Journal of Islamic Faith and Practice.
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